“Historic emissions liability is the most important thing to consider.”
The best synthesis of the moment of stagnation and hope in which COP26 finds itself hours after its closure was found by Diego Pacheco Balanza, the head of the Bolivian delegation: “The developed ones have used more of their emission space and now they Want to attack developing countries,” he said.
It is all the conflict over decarbonisation, which so complicates the dialogue between the 197 countries of the 26th Climate Conference, divided into mobile blocs that are constantly reconfiguring. Climate action cannot be understood if it is inserted into the “simple” framework of an international fight against pollution (as was the Global Coalition to Stop the Hole in the Ozone Layer).
An Indian representative in Scotland explained, “COP26 is the site of a peace process between countries that are trying to agree on how to use a resource that is now very limited.”
Humanity consumed 86% of the CO₂ emissions it could send into the atmosphere, without irreversibly compromising the stability of the climate. What is going on in Glasgow is negotiations on how to split the remaining quota, about 440 billion tonnes. The position on the various fronts of developing countries (from India to Southeast Asia, through emerging Africans) is that American and European capitalism has more than its share and has developed so rapidly because of it. Now it is up to others.
So every single impasse of every part of the conversation can be traced back to this general design.
We are directly into the final stages of the Glasgow talks: the bell is officially set for this evening. The delegation has ended, the Russians have promised vodka to the British, and the Mexicans have tequila if it can be finished in time. But there is a possibility that it will come by tomorrow or even Sunday. The end product delivered to world public opinion – one not so attentive to the process of a climate conference – is a resolution that is still within our reach of the only thing that matters: making temperature rise just and sustainable 1.5 stop up to °C
The main road is the so-called “phase-out” of fossil fuels, the progressive abandonment of coal, oil and gas. For the first time, an official UN climate document calls for an exit from coal and the end of public subsidies for gas and oil.
This is one of the most controversial points of the official text that has been circulating since Wednesday morning: more than a draft, it should be treated as a battlefield in which commas, tenses, aphorisms and nuances are discussed. .
We know that Saudi Arabia, Australia and Russia will fight to the end to keep that expression – “give the fossils” – out of the final document and are not certain they will not succeed: it has already worked in Paris. The 2015 agreement did not mention specific energy sources to give up.
China has a mysterious position in this context. As of Wednesday evening the public’s mask had been that of cautious apathy in Glasgow works. Behind the scenes, however, the Chinese delegation worked above all to keep rules loose on transparency in emissions calculations, an issue that we have drawn from the Paris Agreement and which has become a blind spot in all climate policy. “The only truth is what’s in the atmosphere,” explained Rob Jackson, head of the Global Carbon Project.
Data, however, are our only access to the possibility of understanding what happens in the environment: if they are not uniform and reliable, if they are calculated independently by each country, we may bill as much , there is a risk of getting closer than that. The Chinese would seem obvious: to derail the conversation silently. Also for the same reason Wednesday’s joint declaration with the United States was the most surprising and important event of all Scottish COP26.
The US climate envoy, John Kerry, likened this moment of talks to the agreement on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons between Reagan and Gorbachev. “We are different, but we can work together” is a joint commitment. This was Biden’s plan from the very beginning of the presidency: to separate climate from all other geopolitical issues. We know there will be a summit (on video) between Biden and Xi Jinping next week: the climate will be central. The Joint Declaration between China and the United States offered a range of uniquely interesting material, such as willingness to work on reducing Chinese methane emissions (historic American wars) and deforestation, but it was an act of political will. As above. China came into play at COP26, and then everything is possible again.
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